Minnesota (20-14) at Miami-Florida (20-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 19, 9:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: BankUnited Center (8,000) -- Coral Gables, Florida. Television: ESPN. NIT Record: Minnesota 19-11, Miami-Florida 7-10. Series Record: Miami-Florida leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: In the second round of the 2012 National Invitation Tournament, the sixth-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers square off against the Miami-Florida Hurricanes tonight at BankUnited Center in Coral Gables.
Minnesota really fell off down the stretch with losses in six straight games to close the regular season. Even with that horrendous end, the Golden Gophers still managed to log a 20-win campaign, their fourth in five years since head coach Tubby Smith took the reins. In the opening round of the NIT, Minnesota traveled to Philadelphia and took down the third-seeded La Salle Explorers.
Miami-Florida was one of the unfortunate teams that was in the conversation for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but ultimately had it's bubble burst. The Hurricanes haven't posted more than two wins in a row since the beginning of February, but with a 66-50 victory in the first round over Valparaiso, have also secured a 20-win season.
This is only the second meeting all-time between these two squads, with the first going to Miami in a 63-58 final at home during the 2009-10 season.
Minnesota took a 32-23 advantage on the boards and forced 18 turnovers in it's road win against La Salle in the first round. The Golden Gophers also executed well offensively, hitting 51.9 percent of its total shots, although they did struggle from beyond the arc (1-of-11).
Despite finishing the season ranked third in the Big Ten in assists (15.3 apg) and fourth in field goal percentage (.461), Minnesota was not one of the better offensive teams in the conference this year. The Golden Gophers average 67.5 ppg while putting in a defensive effort that allowed 64.4 ppg. Minnesota has been in search of a dominant scorer all season, and may have finally found one at the end of the year as junior forward Rodney Williams (11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) finished atop the team in both scoring and rebounding, and he is coming off a 21-point eruption against La Salle. He is averaging 16.0 points in the last five contests. Julian Welch (10.1 ppg) is the team's second option, although brothers Andre Hollins (7.9 ppg) and Austin Hollins (9.1 ppg) were the better scorers in the first round, combining for 29 points.
Miami lit up the scoreboard in the second half to hold off Valparaiso last week. The Hurricanes led by just a point (24-23) at the half but made good on 54.8 percent of their field goal attempts after the break, including 6-of-11 from three-point range, to secure the double-digit victory.
The Hurricanes got a strong performance from an unlikely source in the first round, as sophomore guard Rion Brown (6.9 ppg) led the team with 18 points, marking his third straight game in double figures. Brown had not played more than 28 minutes in any game this season, but after seeing 37 minutes on the court last Wednesday has played at least 31 minutes in back-to-back outings. Brown's efforts made up for a poor day by Kenny Kadji (12.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Malcolm Grant (11.1 ppg), who combined for only eight points. The team was without lead scorer Durand Scott (12.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg), as he was serving the first game of a six-game suspension for receiving impermissible benefits. Reggie Johnson (10.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg) missed a a great deal of time early in the season but still wound up as one of the major contributors to a team which ranked fourth in the ACC in scoring (71.0 ppg).
Miami was able to overcome the loss of Scott with some impressive shooting from long range. Even with the strong shooting performance, the 'Canes struggled against the Crusaders and it's likely they'll come up just short in their bid to keep the season alive tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 69, Miami-Florida 64
03/19 10:36:58 ET